19 June 2014

When filming for our Student Profiles, there are a few topics that come up time and time again: the MBA Tournamentthe Leadership Seminar at Saint-Cyr, Professor Rosu’s Financial Markets Class, and, of course, the Global Consulting Practicum (GCP) in partnership with Wharton.

Indeed, the chance to participate in the GCP – a consulting project carried out by HEC Paris and Wharton MBA students (in total making a team of 11), in conjunction with a paying real-life client such as Microsoft or the Bill & Miranda Gates Foundation – is the decisive factor for many in coming to do an MBA at HEC Paris. “It was definitely one of my main motivations in coming here. Within a month of arriving on campus we had already made our team up and were looking for projects to get involved in,” says Hugo Kuo, one of the six HEC Paris students who took part in this year’s project.

This year’s project addressed the spread of cloud technology, and how that can play an important role in the expansion and sustainability of Small and Medium Enterprises in the Private Sector. You can read more about the details of this mission on the Wharton website here.

Once the project, client and teams were announced in October last year, our team were hard at work; researching, arranging interviews and organizing team meetings once a week, be it in person, through email or even via Skype. They also had to begin working closely with the Wharton contingent (no mean feat, with time differences, entire oceans and geographical distance standing between them) to find a good way to coordinate and synchronize.

In January, the team got stuck into their work as they departed for Benin and Rwanda to meet with the client and conduct interviews with employees and industry experts. This was also the first time that the two teams from Wharton and HEC Paris met in real-life; it would be the last time, too, until the final presentation in Philadelphia in May.

This field visit was the first practical experience of consulting for many of our students, as they got to grips with the task at hand. It also served as a stark example of the power and breadth of our Alumni network, as Hugo recalls, “There was one company in Benin that our client had been trying to arrange a meeting with for some time, but they just couldn’t get through the door. Luckily, we found out that the CEO was actually an HEC Alum, and so we were able to get in touch with him and arrange a meeting no problem!”

In fact, you could say that the GCP itself is an exercise in networking to a certain extent. Not only do the participants get to name both HEC Paris and Wharton on their CVs, but they also get to meet with prestigious clients and get a handle on the working culture of three different continents: Africa, North America and Europe.

Alongside this new knowledge of how to adapt to work within different cultures (the teams were multicultural within themselves, too), the GCP allows participants to gain a whole new transferable skillset that can be adapted to fit almost any industry, from Marketing to Consulting. “I learned a lot during the GCP,” says Iuliana Covaci, another of this year’s HEC participants, “how to present and deliver key messages, how SMEs in emerging countries function, how to manage large-scale projects, as well as how to work within a team of 11 when disagreements arise.” This is not just a project for budding strategists.

While it may seem that the field visit was the climax of the project, the real work really begun when the team returned to HEC Paris in February. With monthly check-ups with the client and the final presentation to the client in May approaching, our team really had to get down to work; Hugo – a Part-time MBA student at HEC Paris – took two months away from work in order to focus on the project.

For the final presentation in mid-May, our team flew into Philadelphia for one final meeting with the Wharton team. They then presented their final recommendations to the client and answered any questions the panel had. Recommendations made and job done, the client was delighted with the work of the HEC Paris and Wharton team and vowed to take the team’s recommendations on board. And the feeling was mutual. “They really made us feel as though we were part of the company,” says Hugo, “We weren’t just ignored for nine months and then judged only on our final presentation; they really made an effort to stay in touch with us, giving their comments and encouraging us to think in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. They took our final comments into consideration and even agreed to collaborate with another company we recommended.”

For more information on the Global Consulting Practicum with Wharton, please visit our website.

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